ENID, Okla. — 4RKids celebrated Christmas this year.
The nonprofit launched its latest vocational venture three weeks ago: a custom-screen printing shop called 4RDesigns.
Christmas-themed T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts were among the first designs, complete with phrases such as “Jingle all the way” or “No place like home for the holidays,” all of which debuted at 4RKids’ open house that weekend. Additionally, those shirts were displayed and sold at 4RKids’ The 2nd Story gift shop and the 19th annual Candy Cane Cash event at Chisholm Trail Expo Center.
“We’re so excited,” said 4RKids operations manager John Graham, who oversees this business and others in the manufacturing arm of 4RKids known as the Employment Center.
Graham joined 4RKids to head the screen printing shop in September. Rachel McVay (4RKids executive Director) said that Graham is a former manager of a similar program in Oklahoma for the developmentally disabled.
McVay, who had joined 4RKids in January herself, stated that they were eager for Graham’s expertise.
“We had an opportunity to purchase a screen printing machine, which will supply more steady income for the 4RKids Foundation and more jobs,” she said.
In fact, that’s part of what motivated Graham to move to Enid and work for 4RKids — the chance to create more jobs for individuals on the Developmental Disabilities Services’ waiting list. Graham stated that some developmental disabled people have been waiting for meaningful employment opportunities for more than 10 years.
He said that 4RDesigns alone would generate many jobs. There won’t be one person doing everything. Each individual will contribute to the overall process from start-to-finish.
Screen printing is a meticulous process. This means that there are many tasks, such as washing, coating and cleaning the screen, aligning the stencils, flashing the ink and curing it, squeegeeing the paint, folding the products and counting them. Quality assurance ensures that no screen prints are damaged.
“That’s part of the appeal. They can do every step of the process,” Graham said, adding T-shirt-0making is something developmentally disabled individuals are very capable of doing.
Since 4RDesigns was just born and they’re still in the training stage, “we’re trying different people out and rotating individuals,” McVay said, so they can’t pinpoint exactly how many will be employed in the screen printing shop.
Nevertheless, all of the workers in the Employment Center are able to have what so many take for granted including a paycheck, inclusion in the community, and a sense of self-worth as productive members of society — all of which thrills McVay and Graham.
“They’re excited to see something they made out in the community,” Graham said.
Many local businesses and organizations immediately reached out to place initial orders after the announcement online that 4RKids had opened a screen printing shop.
4RDesigns offers screen printing on tees, long-sleeved shirts, hoodies, and more; the set up fee includes choice of up to three colors and one hour of artwork design (if the design isn’t already provided). Recurring customers and bulk purchases will receive discounts
As like the other Employment Center businesses — The 2nd Story gift shop, Document Destruction shredding and recycling center, 4RPups pet bakery, mini golf course — all proceeds from 4RDesigns benefit the 4RKids Foundation.
“Everything made here goes back into here,” McVay said.
4RKids provides valuable assets for Enid as well as building skills, allowing adults with disabilities to become an integral part of the community.
“The pride that comes out, that they are proud of themselves,” McVay commented, is indescribably worth more even than the paycheck they earn. Graham also agreed.
“We are able to stay true to our roots,” Graham said, because everything 4RKids does strives to meet the original mission statement.
4RKids was established in 2003. Its purpose is empower individuals with developmental disabilities. Dr. Barbara Whinery was the founder of the 4RKids Foundation. This foundation is a group of educators and parents of special-needs children and adults.
4RKids’ mission is to increase community awareness about individuals with developmental disabilities and provide vocational, educational and social/recreational opportunities to special needs children and adults in northwest Oklahoma.
The 4RKids Foundation launched its Employment Center in March 2009. This center allows adults with developmental disabilities to find meaningful work within a community setting.
Out of this came the gift shop, the shredding and recycling center (located down the street from 4RKids’ main facility), and pet bakery, along with contractual work through the state and local companies such as PT Coupling and Enid SPCA. The pet bakery not only offers 4RKids’ line of dog treats, the team also currently bakes and packages healthy dog treats for Perry native Travis Brorsen, a well-known dog trainer who now serves as the TV channel Animal Planet’s pet expert.
McVay, Graham both said that 4RKids is a community partnership because of this success.
“The support of 4RKids is unheard of elsewhere,” Graham noted. Graham stated that Enid welcomed Enid State School/Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid (NORCE), when it was still in existence, and continued to lend support through 4RKids until NORCE residents were integrated into society.
4RKids provides employment opportunities and advocacy for families with special needs through a variety services and outreach.
“There’s a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns,” McVay said about parenting and educating those with developmental disabilities. 4RKids’ advocacy program aims to help parents/guardians and school systems navigate the pathway from high school to the workforce.
4RDesigns is now fully operational and 4RKids plans to expand the capabilities of both the screen printing shop and the pet bakery.
“We are able to serve more individuals and grow our foundation,” McVay said.
“So what can we do for you?” Graham concluded.
To place an order
To order custom screen printing products, call (580) 237-7890 and ask for John or go online to 4RKids.com and click on the “business” tab and scroll to “4RDesigns” to locate an order form.
Stop by The 2nd Story Gift Shop at 710 Overland Trail, Enid, to purchase one of many handmade items, such as greeting cards or candles, candy, dog treats, or body scrub.
To securely and confidentially shred your documents at 50c a pound, or to recycle carton for free, please stop by 1109 Overland Trail. Or call (580 237-7890) for more information about how you can have a container for document removal for your business.
John can help you determine if 4RKids Employment Center would be a good fit to your company.